Meet The Corporation
Corporations are endowed with what amounts to the power of
personhood. But while corporations are treated like humans before
the law, they’re sorely lacking in humanity. Instead, businesses
act like pathological individuals who often fare much better in
legal proceedings than their human counterparts would in similar
in Sierra, Chris Warren explains how corporate-reform
and -accountability activists are working to equalize this power
As Sierra Club Corporate Accountability Committee member Jim
Price tells Warren, ‘We’ve given corporations more power than we
reserve for ourselves.’ Like human citizens, corporations can
contribute to political campaigns and sway elections. But unlike
people, chartered corporations are immortal, as charters never
expire. Shareholders and corporate directors are protected by
‘limited liability’ laws that exempt them from certain
responsibilities should the company make mistakes or fail.
Corporate law has established that corporations should serve the
interests of stockholders, but these interests often conflict with
the best interest of the public and the environment.
Corporate-accountability and -reform activists Robert Hinkley
and Richard Grossman are working to expose unbridled corporate
power and the dearth of corporate morality. While Grossman educates
the public about corporate rights, Hinkley uncovers their
irresponsible actions and preaches the radical notion that
corporations should be responsible to people, communities, and the
Concerned citizens and legislators across the country are
heeding Grossman and Hinkley’s calls to action. They’re trying to
inject values into corporate armatures and outlaw certain behavior
and, in some cases, corporations themselves. A group of individuals
in rural Pennsylvania, spurred by the threat of mountains of manure
from corporate hog farms contaminating their drinking water, banded
together to outlaw corporate farms in their communities. Arcata,
California, has had a law on the books since 1998 that prohibits
fast-food franchises from opening new locations in the city. Arcata
also passed a resolution that acknowledges the citizens’ belief
that corporations are not people and should not have the same
rights as them. Representatives in California, Maine, and Minnesota
have penned state bills that seek to make corporations more
accountable to the public and the environment.
While those seeking to change corporate values in the United
States may have far to go, the European Union is heading down the
highway toward corporate responsibility. The EU has set in place
extensive environmental regulations and review processes for
manufacturers. Warren hopes such measures, along with the ideas of
activists like Hinkley and Grossman, may lead the US and other
countries down the path toward corporate responsibility.
— Rose Miller
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